by Stephen Lendman
Based on spurious charges or others too minor to matter, Israel arrests, tortures, traumatizes, convicts, and detains hundreds of Palestinian youths lawlessly. Many suffer lasting effects.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) discussed one case. It reflects virtually all others. To protect the youth's identity, he's called "Minor A," or simply "A."
Arrested on suspicion of stone-throwing, his ordeal included cruel and usual treatment. In the middle of the night on January 23, 2011, 14-year old "A" was arrested at home in Nabi Saleh village near Ramallah. It followed a week earlier raid. At the time, no arrests were made.
"Massive numbers of armed security forces" were involved. He was detained many hours under harsh conditions before transfer to police custody for interrogation. During the time, he was terrorized, unable to sleep, given no food or water, or allowed bathroom privileges.
Tired without sleep, interrogation began. "A's" basic rights applicable to minors and all detainees were denied. They include due process, presence of a parent or relative, as well as counsel, the right to remain silent, and not forced to confess.
After interrogation, he was detained another four days, eight more at the military prosecutor's request, then extended because his family couldn't meet terms to release him under house arrest.
On January 30, he was indicted for stone-throwing, as well as organizing and participating in an illegal demonstration without permit permission. He was detained two months until granted house arrest with restrictions.
"A's" lawyer, Gaby Lasky, petitioned the military court to disqualify his forced confession. He was denied. The military judge ruled that confessions given police are admissible, even when rights are severely violated and interrogation practices flawed. More on that below.
ACRI said the ruling "provides an unconventional interpretation of many violations of the rights of minors in criminal proceedings, both on the level of policy and legislation as well as on a practical level, and at all stages of the process - from the arrest and detention through the interrogation to the legal procedures in the military courts."
"A" participated regularly in nonviolent weekly Nabi Saleh demonstrations. At issue is encroachment by Halamish the settlement on village land, as well as harsh restrictions denying Palestinians access to their agricultural property and al-Qus spring water rightfully theirs. It supplied the village until lawlessly seized in 2006 for settlement use.
Flawed Interrogation and Trial Proceedings
Attorney Gaby Lasky called "A's" interrogation violent, intimidating, demeaning, and illegal. It violated his basic rights and dignity. It also forced him to confess involuntarily to alleged offenses he didn't commit.
Under harsh conditions, he was denied food, water, and sleep. Afterwards, he was interrogated abusively for long hours, isolated from counsel and family, and not advised of his right to remain silent.
Despite her ruling, Judge Sharon Rivlin Ahai began her discussion of his detention as follows:
"There is no dispute that in certain circumstances, the use of violence, threats, or inappropriate treatment of the detainee immediately before his interrogation could influence the free admission of his guilt."
She then criticized the military prosecutor for "regularly refraining from bringing witnesses to counter the minor's claims related to how the detention was handled."
Nonetheless, she refuted claims "that the manner in which ("A") was detained affected his statement to the police." As a result, Lasky's arguments were rejected.
Unlike Israeli civil law, Palestinian youths aren't explicitly given access to counsel and family members. Yet Ahai considered the "spirit" of Israel's Youth Law with regard to Palestinian defendants, saying:
It's impossible to ignore it "or the principles underlying the protection of a minor's rights, even if he is suspected of committing offenses, and dominance must be given to the supreme principle of the best interest of the minor, as stated in the proposed law."
"Ultimately, a minor is a minor whether he lives in a place where Israeli law applies in its entirely or in another place, where although Israeli law does not fully apply, it is subject to the influence of the Israeli court system."
She continued, saying:
"The police should try to uphold the obligation of allowing parents to be present in the interrogation, even for a Palestinian minor who lives in the region, as long as the conditions in the region permit it."
At the same time, she dismissed counsel's claim that "A's" interrogation was flawed and lawless. She also claimed despite his ordeal, his physical state wasn't reason for not proceeding with a substantive interrogation.
In weighing his rights v. police practices, she sided with authorities no matter how abusive their procedures. She decided "not to render ("A's") statement inadmissible. She merely "requested" flawed methods be "pass(ed) on" to the appropriate authorities "so they will learn from (them), draw lessons, and correct what should be repaired."
In other words, she ruled military interrogators and prosecutors violating basic rights should remain self-regulating free from judicial oversight.
Even though "A's" interrogation defects were "serious," she held they didn't "have a substantive effect on the manner in which (he) gave his confession." As a result, she ruled it admissible.
Lessons Drawn from Her Ruling
Civil laws govern Israelis. Palestinians face military tribunal injustice based on guilt by accusation. Virtually everyone charged is convicted at trial or by plea bargains.
In 2009, a Military Youth Court was established. It raised the juvenile age from 16 to 18. Military laws still harm minors. They lack provisions protecting them in violation of international law.
As a result, youths are substantively harmed in criminal proceedings. They have virtually no rights. They're treated like adults.
ACRI witnessed "many serious violation of the rights of Palestinian minors at every stage of the criminal process stemming from improper and unconstitutional practices of the security forces in how they treat minors - the use of physical and verbal violence during arrests, intimidation and threats, handcuffing and blindfolding of minors, and many other practices that 'A's' arrest only partially illustrates."
Not only are abusive practices unconscionable "from a moral perspective," they also patently violate fundamental international law, notably with regard to the rights of the child.
Israeli children get entirely different treatment. Civil law prohibits imprisoning minors under age 14. In contrast, Palestinian youths young as six are detained, terrorized, tortured and humiliated.
Only Jews have due process. Palestinian rights are entirely denied. "A's" case alone demonstrates abusive treatment no legitimate judicial process would allow.
Moreover, he and most other Palestinian children aren't charged with robbery, assault, rape or murder. They're accused of allegedly throwing stones. At worst, they're misdemeanors too minor to matter. Most often they're innocent, but once accused, guilt is automatic. Intimidation, torture and other abuse follow to force confessions.
ACRI also said "A's" case represents a flagrant violation of the right of free expression and peaceful protest against repressive Israeli occupation. In addition, it shows how Palestinians are abused under "unconstitutional legal norms and improper tools and mechanisms for detention, interrogation, and trial" proceedings. As a result, their fundamental rights are denied.
Moreover, Judge Ahai could have made a precedent-setting ruling based on her own conclusion of cruel and abusive interrogation practices. Instead, she held "A's" forced confession admissible, no matter how illegally obtained.
As a result, she effectively green-lighted continued interrogation and prosecutorial abuses no legitimate court would allow.
They're especially egregious when children are harmed, and, in many cases, left permanently scared. That's a system no one should tolerate.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.